By the beginning of February, most New Yorkers have a recognizably grim look in their eye, one that suggests entire weekends spent on the couch re-watching season after season of Project Runway. By March, many of us start to wonder if this may be the year that spring never comes, whether we’ll be celebrating the 4th of July huddled inside to escape the icy winds of another blizzard.
If the image of fireworks in the snowfall hits eerily close to home, it’s time to start doing everything you can to stave off the creeping bleakness of another long winter. Here are some ideas for how to carry your summer — or at least fall! — attitude through the next few months of winter.
If you hate winter, going outside in the freezing cold may be the last thing you want to do, but it helps. Of course, we’re not suggesting you take a beach chair to the park to soak up the sun through the hood of your winter parka (although that does sound kind of relaxing). Instead, pick an outdoor activity like skiing or ice skating, gather up a group of friends and get out there. After a snowstorm, borrow the top of your neighbor’s trash can, head to the nearest hill and go sledding with a group of children. Working up a sweat in the cold is extra-invigorating and will make you actually appreciate the cold slap of wind on your face. Plus, spending a few hours outside provides a great excuse to go home, mix up a cup of hot chocolate or a hot toddy and spend the night relaxing guilt-free.
Spend time with animals
One way to ensure you spend time outside during the winter is to start hanging out with a dog, whether you get your own, sign up for Rover to start sitting or walking or foster an animal in need through a rescue organization like Social Tees. If you’re taking care of a dog, you’ll be forced to walk it several times a day — their enthusiasm for the great outdoors, hot or cold, is infectious. Walking a dog will also force you to be social when out and about, especially if the pup is friendly.
Getting an indoor pet like a cat or even a fish could also help boost your mood, if you’re not a dog person. Not only do pets provide companionship and give unconditional love, but having to care for another living creature will push you to take better care of yourself. As a bonus, adopting a pet will make you feel good, and the knowledge that you helped save an animal in need may be enough to carry you through even the dreariest days. Check out local shelters or Adopt A Pet, which allows you to easily search for animals in your area that need homes.
If you’re not ready to commit to owning or even caring for a pet for an extended period of time, there are other low pressure ways to spend time with animals. You can volunteer at a local shelter, visit the Central Park Zoo or just go to a dog park during off-leash hours and soak in the joy of dozens of puppies running free.
Try a SAD lamp
Darker, shorter days contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder, and many claim a special light can help brighten your mood if you experience it. Try the Verilux HappyLight, which supposedly helps regulate your circadian rhythm, or a Himalayan Salt Lamp, which apparently boosts the immune system and restores energy. Plenty of people insist light therapy helps alleviate the winter blues, and even skeptics agree that a little extra light paired with the placebo effect certainly can’t hurt.
Though it’s certainly easier to skip the gym when swimsuit season is nowhere in sight, try to focus on how you feel after working out in order to motivate yourself to do so. Even 20 minutes of exercise can help improve your mood, plus it’s a great way to get out of the house, spend time around other people and feel accomplished. It’s hard to feel guilty about spending an afternoon on the couch after busting your butt in spin class.
Cook some comfort food
After you’ve burned some calories, it’s time to replenish them. Winter is the best time to indulge in comfort food, and nothing makes a small New York apartment feel like a home quite like a pot of something simmering on the stove. Cook up a big pot of chili, throw together your favorite rich pasta dish or roast a
chicken. I make this marinara sauce almost every single week in the winter and it’s so good it almost makes me wish the season lasted longer — almost.
Lean into it
Bears hibernate during the winter, so why shouldn’t humans spend full weekends on the couch when it’s cold outside? On dark days — both literally and figuratively — sometimes the best thing to do is just give into your feelings and wallow a bit. Turn on the TV and vow not to step foot out of your apartment until the sun comes out or you have to go to work, whichever comes first. If you’re in the mood to be a productive hermit, start your spring cleaning early. Not only will it make you feel like you’re accomplishing something, it’ll make you feel as though spring really is going to come one of these days.
Take a trip in early March
If you can afford it, the best way to get a break from the winter blues is to go somewhere warm. Though it may be tempting to head south just after the New Year when flights tend to be cheaper, try to hold out for a little later in the season when you’ll need it more. I’ve discovered that the best time to take a vacation is in early March — it gives you something to look forward to during the height of winter, and you get a break just when you‘re most exhausted. By the time you get back, spring might finally be in the air.
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